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Speaker, Jenkins Law Library - Webinar, "Comment k and Pennsylvania Products Liability Law"


August 18, 2021 | 10:00 AM - August 18, 2021 | 11:00 AM EST

Featuring: Jonathan T. Woy

Pennsylvania law insulates and exempts manufacturers of prescription pharmaceuticals and medical devices from being held strictly liable for injuries caused by their products. This blanket prohibition on strict liability claims stems from Comment k to Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts, which precludes all strict liability claims involving certain products, including prescription pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The policy underlying Comment k reflects a recognition that it is critically important that life-saving therapies and medical devices be made available, even if they cannot be made entirely safe due to the nature of their use. Pennsylvania’s adoption of Comment k does not give pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers a free pass, however. They are still subject to negligence claims, ensuring they take reasonable steps to develop and manufacture safe products.

Although Pennsylvania’s appellate courts have long adopted and applied Comment k in prescription drug and medical device cases, a growing number of trial courts in Pennsylvania have recently held that Comment k does not preclude strict liability manufacturing defect claims. This split of authority conflicts with the precedent established by Pennsylvania’s appellate courts and undermines predictability for litigants. On June 24, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit certified two questions to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, one of which requested guidance on whether there are limited exceptions to Pennsylvania’s rule against strict liability in prescription drug and medical device cases.

This one-hour CLE will provide an overview of Pennsylvania’s treatment of strict liability claims against prescription drug and medical device manufacturers, including a discussion of Comment k to the Restatement (Second) of Torts and an analysis of relevant caselaw.